Improvements and Accepting New Realities

Been sleeping more the last several days than usual.  I had been gone weeks where I slept no more than 3 hours at a time.  Now I’ve been sleeping longer but I don’t wake up as stiff and sore.  Maybe the weight lifting and healthier diet are beginning to pay off.

Overall, I feel decent physically.  I have fewer unexplainable aches and pains and I get better quality sleep than was my normal the last several weeks.  I changed my diet too.  I no longer drink soda pop, not even diet.  I eat more fresh fruits and vegetables.  I occasionally go meatless for a day or two to give my guts a rest.  I lift weights three times a week.  I don’t sleep in my recliner as much these days.  Overall, as the weather has warmed up I have started feeling better physically.

Mentally I’m doing better.  I still occasionally have issues with irritability and depression.  Fortunately they usually pass after a few minutes of ranting to myself.  I still don’t socialize much, as I am still a little paranoid about dealing with rude and angry people.  During the winter, there were days it was bad enough I didn’t even want to socialize with anyone even online or over the phone.  I don’t call my family as often anymore.  But when I do, the conversations usually last longer and go more in depth.  I still call my parents at least once a week.

I’ve been enjoying the warmer days.  I have my windows open most of the time now, except when it rains or we have bad winds.  I leave my drapes open except for when I sleep.  I don’t watch much for tv anymore, haven’t since New Year’s.  I spend much of my free time reading, watching educational videos, listening to audiobooks, messing with my computer, and participating in my tech enthusiasts’ groups on social media.  I don’t socialize with even close friends as much as I normally do.  I still drop in on them every few days.  But it seems like most of my friends have just been having problems lately, whether with work or relationships.  Since most of my friends are in the age range of mid 30s to early 40s, I imagine many are going through mid life problems now.  I have so far managed to avoid the mid life crisis.  I had my crises in my mid to late twenties.  It was in the 2004 to 2008 years that I painfully had to realize my schizophrenia and anxiety would never allow me to hold a long term job, get married, have children, have any kind of prestige, or any kind of money.

At one time, namely 2006, I had the goal of finding my niche and being off disability before 2015.  Well, that didn’t happen.  Here it is in 2019 and I am still on disability.  But I have come to acceptance in that regard.  I had to change a lot of priorities and completely reexamine everything I was taught and believed over the years.  I came to realize that people are defined by their careers only because they allow themselves to be.  We were brainwashed since childhood to believe a human’s worth was in what they did to earn money.  I had to find out the painful way that there is far more to living and life than earning money and working.  It was only then I came to realize the obvious: the most important and influential work in the world is not paid or even respected by many people.  That work is, of course, being a parent.  The second most important job in the world is being a friend and support to other people.  I will never get to be a father, but I can be a friend and support person with the best of them.  And this is alright with me.

Even though I will probably never have much for money or any kind of prestige or be in any kind of romantic relationship, I am alright with all of this.  I made my peace with this several years ago.  Having a mental illness made me face my limitations and accept that I had to adapt.  I will never become the scientist I wanted to be as a child, but I am alright with that.  I have found my niche as a blogger, friend, support person, and confidant.

Thoughts on Aging With A Mental Illness

Stayed home this weekend and cleaned in my apartment.  I had to take more frequent breaks than I used to in years past.  I’m just not as energetic as I was even two years ago.  I guess this is what I get to look forward to as I continue to age.  I decided I’m hiring a cleaning service to give my place a complete going over as soon as possible and then have them come back regularly.  I haven’t decided if I’m going to have them do it weekly or every two weeks.  It depends on prices.

I wish I didn’t have to go this route.  But then, I wish I wasn’t schizophrenic either.  There are things that I’m not going to be able to do alone, especially as I get older.  The idea that I can’t be as independent in my late 30s as I was even in my mid 30s is the hardest part of aging that I have had to come to accept. I always had an independent streak in me that didn’t want the help of others and wanted to be my own boss.  I think it runs in my family.  My father, my grandfathers, and I think most of my great grandfathers were self employed small business owners or farmers. I am starting to understand that there are things now that I can’t do alone anymore. I now understand why almost all of my friends got married or partnered up by this point in their lives.  Even the people I know in their forties that never married are closer to their extended family then they were in their twenties and thirties.  I suppose that seeing my limitations and losing some of my old physical abilities are a part of myself having to accept my own mortality.

I have heard from older men in my social circles that when they hit their mid to late 30s, that was about when their physical strength and interest in sex started to wane and decline.  That is also about the time when their careers started to take off, they assumed leadership roles in their jobs, social organizations, churches, and communities too.  This is when their careers, family lives, and leadership skills started to show.  Some men also had their ‘mid life crisis’ and life changing events like divorce and or death of parents occur during their thirties.  I guess this is when many people start realizing they are going to lose their physical strength and eventually die.  Traditionally forty represented the middle point of life even in ancient times, barring deaths from accidents, disease, or war.  At about age forty, that is when people traditionally go from rank and file members of society and start assuming more leadership roles.

In my case, I have found myself a home as a mental illness blogger.  It certainly wasn’t my dream job nor what I thought I would be doing when I was twenty one.  Back then, I had changed my college major from pre medicine to business management.  At the time I was really interested in personal finance and investing, so I thought I wanted to be a financial advisor and help people plan for their retirements, etc.  I interviewed at a few of these types of firms my senior year of college, but was never offered any job.  I had to accept that I wouldn’t be using my business training in a traditional job.  I have accepted that and made my peace with it.  I couldn’t say that ten years ago.  As it is, the blog is reaching more people than I thought it would when I started five years ago.  It certainly took me further than traditional publishing would have taken me.  And this means of work didn’t even exist when I was in grade school.  It makes me wonder what new jobs will be springing up in the next twenty to thirty years.

I am starting to come to the acceptance that I am losing my physical strength.  I probably will never be able to do things quite like I did in my early twenties unless some miracle of modern science and medicine comes along, which as much as I love science, I won’t bet my life savings on 🙂  I’m starting to come to the acceptance that I’m not going to as spry as I once was.  I have to be more careful about what I eat and activities I involve myself.  I guess I’m moving into middle age.  Hopefully I can avoid the whole mid life crisis deal as I’ve had to come to accept many hard truths about myself and life in general years ago when the schizophrenia really started.

Change of Season, Change of Mood, Change With Age

The weather is cooling off, especially over the last few days.  The nights are almost as long as the days now, some farmers are beginning the harvest, farmers’ markets are open all over the place, and I’m getting outside more.  I’ve had my windows open the last few days and I’ve pretty much stopped using my air conditioner.  Yes the change of seasons is upon us.

I for one am glad that summer is over.  Mentally I’m just not very stable during the summers.  And I never could figure out why.  I didn’t experience any true tragedies or trauma as a child.  I was bullied in school but I know kids who got it worse than I did.  I’m thinking many of my problems during the summers stem from dealing with the heat and humidity.  I never did like hot weather.  I like spring in the fact that there are still cool days but not weeks on end of hot weather.  And I like fall because of the cooling weather, the fall leaves, and I’ve always enjoyed fall activities more than summer.  I’m sure that being overweight doesn’t help in dealing with hot summers, let alone dealing with a mental illness.

Mentally I was more stable this summer than most previous summers.  Even though I couldn’t do much with a bad back I was still pretty stable for the most part.  Now that I’m healed from my back I am getting outside more.  I am also eating less too.  I can tell my stamina is coming back, more slowly than I would like but it’s still coming back.  I think that I have made it through the roughest part of the year already.  I hope that things keep getting better.

I have noticed a few changes with my mental illness over the last few years.  I can tell that things that used to bother me real bad don’t bother me as much.  If I had dealt with a problem a few years ago, I’d be angry for an hour or two.  Now I’m over such things in only a couple minutes.  I’ve become more accepting of the illness now.  I’ve accepted that I’ll never have a great career or a family of my own.  This used to bother me real bad as recently as five years ago.  Now I’ve just accepted it and planned accordingly.  Since I see that many of my friends are having problems at their jobs and marriages, I’m actually thankful in some regards that I never got to go that route.  I have the problems of a mental illness but I don’t have the problems of a stressful job and hectic married life.  I have a mental illness but I don’t have as much stress and pointless drama as my friends.  And I love it.  I don’t have much money or prestige but I do have peace of mind.  I wouldn’t trade that for anything.

My College Years

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I see that many schools in my part of the United States are starting their school years again.  The college in my hometown starts next week so we will have 18 to 23 year old college students trickling in throughout this week.  I actually enjoy my hometown more when the college students are back.  I used to go up to the 24 hour Wal Mart during the school year just to see what the college students were up to.  Many college age people spent their overnight hours at the Wal Mart just doing goofy college aged stuff.  I know I’m old enough now I wouldn’t pass as a college student but I do find the overnight crowd watching entertaining.  Reminds me of when my friends and I used to do similar things when we were in college.  I’ll probably restart that tradition when school gets going.  My friends and I often went to the all night diners on Halloween to see college people and older in their costumes.  I didn’t go to the bars on Halloween because the music was always too loud and I don’t deal well with drunk people.

I readily admit to being more nostalgic for my college years than my high school years.  For one, most people in college were there because they wanted to be and not because they were legally forced to.  I loved college because I, for the first time in my life, wasn’t penalized for being smart and eccentric.  I met some eccentric and cool people who made me look neurotypical.  One of my friends in college was an incredibly intelligent girl who made me look like I was mentally standing still.  We were in a class together that involved lots of writing and class discussions.  She always made it a point to keep everyone on our toes and sharp.  She had less tolerance for ignorance than I.  I miss her and I regret that we had a falling out.  I had another cool friend in that class that was really sharp and a real pleasant girl to be around.  She had a kind word for everyone regardless.  She had her beliefs but she wasn’t as abrasive about hers as I could be about mine.  Especially before I became diagnosed I tended to be as subtle as a sledgehammer to the face when I thought someone’s ideas weren’t sound.  I never learned the fine art of diplomacy until my college career was almost over.

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I enjoyed the all night conversations in the dorms.  It wouldn’t be uncommon for me to be up until sunrise talking with my roommate, my neighbors, or just random people in the dorm and still be on time for an 8 am class after a couple cups of cowboy coffee.  My best friend in college managed to sweet talk the dorm dad into allowing him to have a coffee maker in his dorm.  I slept a lot in the afternoons so I could be up all night with the rest of my dorm.  I spent a lot of time playing pool and trivia games at the student center.  I got to where I was decent at pool but developed a reputation for being so good at trivia games that no one wanted to play me.  My friends and I played lots of board games.  Trivial Pursuit, Axis and Allies, and Risk were quite common for us.  We didn’t play a lot of card games until I moved off campus for my senior year.  I didn’t go to any wild fraternity parties as I went to a Christian college and we had an officially dry campus.

I did pledge a fraternity in my freshman year and was active for a couple years.  I went independent in my junior year once it became obvious to me that I had to spend more time studying if I wanted to graduate, especially with a mental illness and changing my major.  I didn’t do any sports in college besides intramural softball.  I still managed to do lots of flag football and ultimate frisbee on the campus green when I was in school. Ruined many t-shirts and gym shoes because of playing in the rain and mud too many times. They should make ultimate frisbee an Olympic sport.  It is a real sport.  I knew a couple guys who got broken ankles in those games.  I enjoyed lifting weights in the school fitness center.  I didn’t drive much in college except for road trips.  My roommate and I went to New Mexico over Thanksgiving break one year to visit his long distance girlfriend.  My best friend and I went trout fishing and hiking in the Black Hills a couple times during Spring Break.  Sometimes we’d go to the next college town over and hit the cheap movie theaters.  Since most of my friends weren’t drinkers we didn’t do the bars in college.  Besides the music in bars is far too loud for any kind of conversation.

If there is a point to my ramblings about my college years back in the pre wireless internet ages, it is in spite my problems with mental illness I still had a good time in college.  I made some pretty cool friends I still hear from and have some pleasant memories.  I was able to have a better time in college than high school because we were just more accepting of other people and their quirks.  People accepted me despite my issues and problems and I accepted them too.  I don’t think back on those years often enough.  But I certainly feel good when I do.

A Sense of Calm During the Holidays

It’s been a long time since I’ve had a sense of calm and normal.  But things are finally starting to settle and slow down.  I’m progressing enough in my chiropractic therapy I go in only twice a week.  My EoE is being treated and I’ve altered my diet to account for many possible food allergies.  So my stomach feels better and I’m not as easily irritable as I was earlier this fall.

After a couple hectic and stressful days last week, things started calming down yesterday.  I made no attempt to fight the mobs on Black Friday.  Instead I stayed home, watched football, listened to audiobooks on youtube, and drank a few cups of black tea.  Found that black tea is easier on my stomach and gives me just enough caffeine to keep sharp for those late night research sessions.  I’ll probably switch over entirely this winter.

My back isn’t hurting anymore.  Even the tail bone injury I had years ago in high school has cleared up.  I always thought it was one of those things I was doomed to live with.  Too bad I didn’t get it worked on shortly after it happened.  But chiropractic treatments were even less mainstream then now.

Now I have my car back and it looks as if the accident never happened.  I have also more or less begun my winter routines.  We’ve already had a couple light snows.  Found my car handles well on ice.  That was one of my concerns going into the first winter with a different car.  But this car is low enough miles it should last me at least ten to twelve years.

I’ve now come to the acceptance part of my grandmother’s death.  I was more easily irritated and depressed for probably three months, which I think was part of my grieving process.  But she was a positive influence on my life for years.  And I was talking to her right until she had a major stroke about ten days before she died.  She was mentally sharp at her birthday party in June but she wasn’t very mobile because of physical health problems.  It has to be tough being mentally sharp but feeling your body fall apart.  It was bad enough for myself knowing my ability to process stress and social situations because of my schizophrenia while my cognitive ability remained relatively changed.  Being in a car accident didn’t help with the irritability and short temperedness.

I’ve also come to the acceptance that, barring some miracle of future science and medicine, I’m not going to ever be able to handle any kind of job where I can use my natural intellect.  Coming to this acceptance has only happened recently and it was by far the toughest aspect of my life I had to accept.  I grew up believing that if one found their niche and developed that niche, then good things would happen.  Found out at a very early age I had some unusual intelligence.  I also learned I had almost no bodily coordination and hated athletics.  So I never had any dreams of playing pro football.  I wasn’t very good with my hands but was excellent with ideas and scientific concepts.  I decided I wanted to be a scientist even before I started kindergarten.  Unfortunately that dream didn’t come true.  After gutting through almost two years of biology and chemistry classes while fighting a mental illness, it became painfully obvious that I wouldn’t get to pursue the dream any more.

The worst part of coming to this acceptance was knowing that I did everything right in life and I still would never use my ability.  I didn’t drink, I didn’t do drugs, I didn’t have sex, let alone date much, etc.  I spent most of my weekends and evenings studying for my classes while many of my classmates were out partying and screwing around.  And I was well on my way of making something positive out of myself.  But it never happened because of schizophrenia.  It took pretty much everything from me.  And it even messes with your mind, unlike most physical diseases.  Well schizophrenia is the result of brain issues.  It was rough seeing everything I worked for gradually destroyed piece meal.  For a long time I tried to figure out what I did wrong.  Once I came to the conclusion I did nothing wrong, I blamed others for the illness happening.  Once I got past that and accepted it was what it was, I have settled in for the long haul.  Now I’m trying to keep even keel and make the best of a lousy situation.

 

Coming To The Acceptance Phase

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My mental health has been quite stable for several months.  I’ve probably come to a point that after 15 years with a diagnosis I know my triggers and problem areas well enough I can avoid these without even thinking about it.  I’ve put in enough practice now I have carved out enough of a niche that I don’t really miss things I would have missed five to ten years ago.  I have now come to accept that I don’t have to be defined by a career or lack of in my case.  In my case a career never really launched but it wasn’t from a lack of trying.  In my twenties I had read about those who had schizophrenia, bi-polar, autism spectrum, etc. that went on to have great careers and families.  I thought ‘if they can do it, why not me?’  So I tried various job fields but never could overcome the anxieties and panic attacks I often had with working and socializing.  I’ve come to the level of acceptance that a traditional career, family, and American Dream type of life isn’t going to happen, but I’m alright with that.  I don’t have a problem with not achieving this even if others I know do.  These others do not live my life for me.

Psychiatrists often talk about levels of grief when something bad happens, like a death of a loved one or the loss of a career.  I think they go something like Shock, Disbelief, Anger, Bargaining or Denial, and Acceptance.  I went through all of these, slipped back between stages at times, and only within the last couple years have I come to accept that I won’t have the great career, great family, picket fence neighborhood type of life I spent my younger years working so hard in school to get.  Yes, it would have been cool and I know I would have done well in that type of environment without a mental illness.  But, mental illness is one of those wild cards that no one can foresee or even plan for.  Back up plans for getting mental illness do not exist.  When things do happen, it will take time to come to a level of acceptance where it’s like ‘Yeah this happened and it sucks.  I didn’t do anything to bring this on. It can’t be changed but I’m alright with it.’  It takes a lot of time and a great deal of hardship, but acceptance of life with mental illness can be possible.  But it’s a very tough road to travel to come to that level of acceptance.